The role of a transnational education service business in higher education

  • Rosalind Irving

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Education (EdD)


There is percieved to be an increasing role for private actors in education in different sectors and locations. This is seen as an effect of the increasing role of markets, competition and choice in policy activity. This study explores this from two perspectives: firstly, as an intrinsic case study that aims to shed light on the behaviour of a specific organization. The case examined is that of Pearson which is the largest education company globally. The global reach and extensive nature of Pearson’s diverse activities suggest it may play an important role in education and is of value as an object of study. Secondly, the study examines business behaviour in relation to social policy theory and education policy. Theory suggests that businesses are models and vehicles for efficient service provision. One aim of this research was to discover how this might happen in practice. How might a business actually behave and how does this relate to what theory and policy assumes? The issue is approached through three core aspects of Pearson’s business: globalization, digitization and higher education as they evidence policy themes of markets, competition and choice. The research was framed as a case study using two data types: documentary research and interviews with subjects connected to Pearson. It uses the lens of business practices to examine strategies as they are assumed to relate to other companies, to products, as involvement in education policy emanating from the UK and as practices at subject level. The research finds that Pearson seeks opportunities to manipulate neoliberal policy themes to its advantage. The fact of being a publicly traded company has a significant impact on the organization’s behaviour, which exhibits a monopolizing tendency, and is key to understanding Pearson’s involvement in education.
Date of Award1 Mar 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorHugh Lauder (Supervisor)


  • Edu-Businesses

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